Can Israel and China Develop a Symbiotic Relationship?

April 16, 2014

China Israel  yinyang

In per capita terms, Israel is the highest patenting country in the world, despite the previous blog article. China is a big market, and a manufacturing powerhouse with a very large population.

An interesting article describes symbiotic relationships between the countries.

At present, the single client who I’ve done most IP work for in the past three years is a Chinese company part owned by an Israel start-up, that is essentially a joint venture between China and Israel, with an Israeli CEO and president, and Chinese workers. I don’t know how representative this business model is, and suspect that it is a unique phenomenon, but it is a highly successful one.

I hope there will be more cooperation in future years.

China and Israel are both ancient civilisations. The classic overland trading route to China via India starts in Israel’s Negev Desert. Columbus was actually looking for a Westward way to India when he stumbled on the New World, which he called the West Indies, and the populations Indians.


Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

April 13, 2014

statistics

Indus TechInnovations sent me the following “informatic” for publication: Patent trends – Israel. It is very gung-ho and positive. The problem is that last year’s statistics have published and are less positive. See my article from February. Since the 2013 statistics have been published, ignoring them does a disservice. Particularly where they buck the trend.

There was anArticle from Idiot Achronot last Friday, by Sever Plotzker (טור ששי) that claimed to provide the true facts behind the propaganda in various areas, one of which was patents and innovation. Dr Esther Luzzatto, managing partner of the Luzzatto Group, one of the big five accountancy firms [sic] specializing in technology and IP was quoted. Now, we can argue whether or not the Luzzatto group is one of the largest patent attorney and law firms in Israel, but it is not a large accountancy firm and I am sure that Drs Kfir and Etty Luzzatto would be the first to acknowledge that.

The article included a number of interesting statistics and theories.

Briefly, the points raised were:

  1. A drop in PCT filings of 30%
  2. Significant drop in investment in start-ups
  3. Privatization of technology incubators
  4. International companies opening R&D facilities in Israel
  5. In 2013, there were 780 start-up companies registered, where the general average is about 650 a year.

The drop in PCT filings was considered a reliable indicator of innovation in general, and patent activity in particular. It was linked to the drop in funding, which was linked to the privatization of incubators and venture capitalists wanting a quick exit and to international companies creaming off talent by opening R&D facilities, where the patents were registered in name of international holding company.

I would not be surprised if the original research by the Luzzatto group resulted in a coherent report. What was clear was that the journalist who extracted the data and summarized it in a column and a half didn’t have much of an idea about the subject matter.

Nevertheless, the article made a few points worth considering. The first one was that there is apparently a drop in PCT filings by Israelis of 30%. This statistic is worrying, but I am not convinced that Dr Luzzatto is correct that this is a representative marker of innovation or even of patenting activity. The underlying assumption that this statistic clearly shows a drop in patenting, but it actually only shows a drop in PCT filings. There is an inherent assumption that patent filing is always reflected by use of the PCT mechanism. I suspect, however, that a lot of activity is going on in telecommunications and software, particularly in developing mobile phone applications. In these fields, many start-up companies have filed PCT applications only to run out of money 18 months later. With the speed at which these fields change, it is a reasonable to file in US only. The calculation of the company’s value may be based on US market only.

Some medical device companies also only file in US. Here it is less easy to justify, but with a limited budget some companies are perhaps more careful where and how widely they file, but are, nevertheless, innovative and may be able to bring a product to market. of course, sometimes the invention is only patentable in the US. I’ve had that with medical methods, for example.

One of my clients makes industrial digital printers. The company’s market is world-wide, but competing products are manufactured by companies based in Israel, the US and recently Italy. The company has traditionally filed in Israel and then in US under the Paris Convention, and recently also files in Europe. There is little justification for them to file PCT applications. One of my client makes game changing computer hardware. The company files in the US and immediately afterwards in the Far East under the Paris Convention since their competitors are all in Asia. It may make sense or them to consider filing a PCT application for the more critical applications to keep their options open, or to file in India and Europe just in case competing factories open up there. Client considers the $100 million required to set up a fab rules out this possibility. So there you have it, start-ups, small Israel manufacturers and a large company all actively patenting, but not using the PCT mechanism.There may indeed be a drop in inventing, but it is less severe than the 30% discussed in the article.

There is a drop in venture capital. However,  in the past there have been bubbles where venture capital invested has been out of all proportion to real worth.  This is a world-wide phenomenon, not one exclusive to Israel. With low-interest on safe investments and now some govt. intervention in the property market, one imagines that venture capital will grow again. Recently investors have been looking to buy existing patents in order to sue infringers. This model is diverting funding from research, but won’t last.

Privatization of technology incubators may result in investors being short-sighted and focused on a quick return for investment. However, it is doubtful that this is related to the drop in PCT filings. One needs a first filing, maybe a provisional application, to solicit funding in the first place since investors want to see that there is something allegedly patentable. The Paris Convention Deadline, or PCT filing date, comes around a year after the provisional is filed. Private investors may want a quick return, but it won’t be that quick that the money’s run out before a PCT application can be filed.  The preference for private vs. govt. funding models are more tied up with political ideology than with anything else. Generally capitalist economics assume that the private market will do a better job than the government in creating new industries. Whether or not this us true, State funding of basic research in universities makes sense, but I am not sure that the tech transfers should be funded by the government.  Certainly some government-funded start-ups should never have received funding since the basic concept was obviously wrong.

As to International companies opening R&D facilities in Israel, this as generally positive. It is preferably for Israelis to work for large corporations such as Intel, Microsoft, Google, GM, etc. in Israel, than that they go to Silicon Valley to work for them.  The large companies offer a reasonable salary and conditions, but the entrepreneur willing and able to try to establish a start-up will forgo the salary and conditions to take the risk of starting up something of his own, if he can obtain funding. It is unlikely that the existence of R&D centers makes obtaining funding for a new venture less likely.

The drop in start-up companies from 960 In 2013, there were 780 start-up companies registered, where one would expect 650 when taking a longer perspective.

Many patent firms are keen on clients filing PCT applications. It generates income. Perhaps the hesitancy by inventors reflects a greater sophistication and realization that funding is difficult to come by, and companies are filing less widely but not necessarily less first filings?

My problem is with the article in Idiot Achronot. It is unclear to what extent it reflects the views of the Luzzatto group in general, or of Etty in particular.


Striking Evidence in a Trademark Opposition

April 6, 2014

Al Shurkah Alwataneya Lisenael Al-Alamenyom Walfrofilat – otherwise known as the National Aluminium & Profile Co. or NAPCO, filed Israel trademark No. 240139 for aluminium profiles. On it publishing for opposition purposes, Exstel filed an opposition. The mark in question is a simple line in a profile extrusion, whether an indentation or a protrusion.

NAPCO’s mark is shown here.

Al shurkah indentation

Exstel uses such indentations/protrusions at an angle of 120, and claims that their mark is very well known. The Exstel mark is reproduced below.

Exstel's mark

Unfortunately, Exstel’s mark had not been renewed and had thus lapsed, allegedly due to a clerical error.

Marking extrusions with one or more parallel indentations or protrusions is the only practical way to mark them. The  single 120 indentation does seem to be rather similar.

Since the Exstel had been allowed to lapse, they have to claim that their mark is well known. It may be well known among building contractors, but it certainly is less well known than, say, the Adidas three striped mark.

Applicant argued that the Opponent was using the protruding mark, and not the indented mark. Both sides supplied evidence including various statements.

Applicant has requested that various statements should be deleted since they were submitted as responses to applicant’s statement but are, in fact, new evidence.

One such statement is that Exstel has been using both protrusions and indentations for years. Another related to the likelihood of confusion when purchasing profiles from a store that stocks both NAPCO and Exstel is NAPCO continued to mark their profiles with V indentations.

A third piece of evidence relates to a recording of a conversation with a stockist, that NAPCO wanted dismissed on grounds of it being heresay,  also on grounds that the private investigators did not present this evidence which was slipped in as an appendix, and thus could not be cross-examined.

Opposer argued that all these statements relate to the issue of the mark being new and distinctive.

Finally, the file wrappers concerning the 240081 and 240082 marks to Sharmer were submitted as evidence only at the stage of responding to the  applicant’s evidence, since they were unavailable earlier. (For details of these marks see here).

As far as the Affidavit’s went, the Deputy Commissioner accepted that a protrusion was better than an indentation since indentations created a point of weakness. The Deputy Commissioner was prepared to delete a statement in an expert opinion that a single store might carry profiles from more than one source, since this was beyond his expertise. Since the private investigators had been available for cross-examination, the Deputy Commissioner did not see reason to strike this evidence.

Ms Bracha could not see any reason to cancel the submission of the file wrappers of 240081 and 240082 marks to Sharmer. However, she didn’t think they provided much support to either side, and clearly the opposer could not be cross-examined on the accuracy of their content.

In summary, Ms Bracha struck the statement of Mr Sagi Sgian from the record and ordered 1000 shekels be paid to the applicant

COMMENT

There is always a conflict over whether to favour procedure or substance. The issue here should be whether or not the relevant public, i. e. builders and glazers, would be confused. I think that this is more significant than whether data is submitted in a timely fashion. Having allowed their mark to lapse certainly doesn’t help the opposer. If they do, however, widley use the same mark, i.e. an indentation, then there is a likelihood of confusion. If, for reasons of weakening profile, or other reasons, they only use protrusion, there is probably no likelihood of confusion.


Accelerating Patent Examination when Inventor is Aged

April 3, 2014

old inventor

Background

In Israel, applications are sorted into tentative technology groups on filing and then, within each technology group, are examined approximately in order of priority date. Periodically, when the ratio of examiners to applications under examination drops sufficiently, the Israel Patent Office sends out Notices Prior to Examination for another batch of applications. There is no need to request examination and no special fee for so doing.

Under Section 19a of the Israel Patent Law, the applicant may pay a fee and request accelerated examination. If there are sufficient grounds for so doing, the patent office will allow the examination of a pending case to proceed, and the examiner should prioritize examination of that case on receiving a response to office actions.

This model has been confused somewhat by the various bilateral and multilateral patent prosecution highway agreements, where positive examination results from the country of first filing may be used as the basis of accelerating examination elsewhere.

The case

On 9 December 2012, Cimas Limited requested accelerated examination of Israel Patent Application No. 216870 on the grounds that the inventor, Professor Shimon Slavin, was born in 1941. Examiner Itay Katz noted that section 19aa1 allowed acceleration based on the age of the applicant, but not of the inventor. Since the applicant was a company, he rejected the request.

Applicant responded that Section 19aa6 allows acceleration in special cases where it is warranted. Whilst section 19aa1 does indeed relate to applicants, the fact that a company may be formed and a patent assigned to it for economic reasons was not supposed to shut the door in the face of elderly inventors who might benefit from acknowledgement of their inventive contributions.

The ruling

The amendment to Section 19 in 2012 was an attempt to codify patent office practice.

Within the discipline covered, Applications should generally be examined in order of filing. Not only is this fair, but otherwise a later filed patent could become a bar to practicing an earlier filed invention. Section 19 is an open list. As of 15 January 2014, requests for accelerating examination should be brought to the Commissioner’s attention.

There is no doubt that 70-year-old applicants are entitled to accelerated examination. Sections 39-43 of the Law states that inventors are entitled to recognition as such, but not to be entitled to anything else. The Commissioner was skeptical that this throws light on the issue in question. Citing Dr Shlomit Yanitzky Ravid, the Commissioner argued that being recognized as an inventor has indirect financial ramifications. Noting government decision 431 from 2006 to address the needs of the elderly which eventually resulted in a ministry for the elderly, and concerns for them to be able to remain in the workforce, the Commissioner ruled that there was a public interest in allowing elderly inventors to enjoy the fruit of their creation. He also went on to rule that the mere fact that the patent is assigned only partially negates the rights of the elderly inventor, for example, forfeiting the discount in filing fees.

Conclusion

The commissioner ruled that the application could proceed to Examination.

Comments

Age of inventor is certainly grounds for acceleration in the US, even now, after the America Invents Act, when the applicant may be a company.

However, arguably the Ministry for the Elderly and the Pensioner’s Party had plenty of opportunity to create an age of inventor clause in this amendment and didn’t. Age of Applicant is a general consideration not an exceptional circumstance and in absence of clear legislation, I am not sure that this interpretation is fair. If we accept age of inventor as being relevant, then what is the cut off age? Retirement age? 70? 80?   Then again, since the Law clearly states that age of applicant is grounds for acceleration, presumably companies such as IBM, Kodak, Coca Cola and the like, should have an advantage over start-up companies! The ruling opens the door to fraud by grandfathering in the inventor, i.e. adding grand-dad as an inventor to skip the queue.

Commissioner Kling has noted that advancing the interests of senior citizens is on the government agenda and used this as the basis for accelerating examination when the inventor is a senior citizen. What about other groups that the government wishes to advance? Former Chief Justice Barak ruled in favour of preferential treatment to rectify this situation. If women and men apply for a senior position and a woman candidate is as qualified as a man, the Supreme Court under Barak would have the woman chosen. Women are certainly under-represented as inventors. Very few applications list women as inventors. Possibly women inventors could request accelerated examination on grounds of their gender? Similar arguments could be proposed to accelerate examination for minorities (Caucasians, Beduin, Israeli Arabs, or for people living in the periphery, or settlers. There is a difference in that the aged are less likely to be around in 2 or 3 years when their application comes around for examination, but that may be true of citizens living on the Gazan border or actively serving in the army or doing reserve duty, minorities such as lifeguards and frequent flyers. I think this may be what the courts refer to as a slippery slope…

 

Over all, I think the decision is wiser than the wording of the amendment.


Soho in Israel

March 20, 2014

SoHo

Collection Soho LTD owns a chain of design shops selling furniture, kitchenware, ornaments, bags, jewelry and fashion accessories. The chain has been in existence for 10 years, and in June 2013, the company was awarded a trademark for the word Soho in class 35, covering Shops for sale of designed goods in different consumer sections including – foodware and tableware, office supplies, appointment books and planers, calendars, kitchenware, baby and infant products, greeting cards, bathware (sic), furniture.

When Electra Real Estate LTD and Ben Ephraim and Sons, Building and Entrepeneurship LTD publicized a plan for a shopping mall called So Ho, Collection Soho LTD filed for an injunction, under the Equitable Trade Laws and the Trademark Ordinance.

Judge Gidon Ginat of the Tel Aviv District Court heard the case. As is his custom, and as he explained at an AIPPI conference in Israel a few months back, Judge Ginat prefers to address the whole issue in one hearing rather than rule on temporary injunctions and let cases drag out. He ruled that under both trademark infringement and the tort of Passing Off, the relevant test was whether there was an objective likelihood of confusing potential customers such that someone might purchase the goods of one company thinking that they were purchasing the goods of the other company.

Based on the fact that New York and London have Soho districts of a Bohemian, arty character, and with reference to Judge Gronis’ decision (Supreme Court Rules that Usage of “Shemesh” by Competing Restaurant is Kosherconcerning the word Shemesh, where the now head of Supreme Court ruled that registration of the word Shemesh (Sun) as a trademark by a grill restaurant, was insufficient to prevent others from calling their restaurants various names that included the word Shemesh, Judge Ginat ruled that in addition to the classic triple test for likelihood of confusion and the distinctive-indicative-generic term spectrum, he went on to rule that there are words with a universal aura and that it was difficult to accept that someone could take ownership over such words, and felt that Soho was in that category.

Although there is a chain of design shops called SoHo, there are other enterprises using the name Soho as part of their name. Here there was an interest in developing a shopping precinct called SoHo, not a single shop. Judge Ginat felt that there was no real likelihood of confusion, and therefore denied the injunction and ruled that the precinct could use the name SoHo. But should use a different font and not use the phrase Collection SoHo.

In the circumstances, due to the other goods sold in the shopping mall, Judge Ginat ruled that it would be clear to customers that the mall was not related to Collection SoHo, and threw out the case. However, he also ruled that the defendants could not use the same font as that used by Collection Soho LTD or use the phrase Soho Design.

13408.02.14 Collection Soho LTD vs Electra Real Estate LTD and Ben Ephraim and Sons, Building and Entrepeneurship LTD, Tel Aviv District Court before Judge Ginat, 9th March 2014

COMMENT

The term Soho conjures up a bohemian arty sort of lifestyle to Americans due to the neighborhood called South of Houston or Soho for short. To the British, the term indicates London’s historic red light district

There are 13 marks for Soho in the trademark registry, six of which have lapsed and 7 that are in force. For example, International Paper Company of Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A. has a trademark No. 202063  for Disposable containers for use in the food and beverage service industry, namely, cups, lids, bowls, plates and serving platters; all included in class 21 and mark 202062 for Disposable containers made of paperboard for use in the food and beverage service industry, namely, cup carriers, cup sleeves, boxes, buckets, and bags; all included in class 16. Two of the lapsed marks, Soho and Soho Club were for registered to a Tango LTD, for clothing in class 25.

It is not clear to me why the word Soho should not be monopolized in Israel by registration of a trademark. If such a mark is registered, I fail to understand why the mark owner should not be able to enjoy a monopoly for the word.

I can see that the two signs use different fonts, but only can tell this as they are reproduced side by side. Both signs use san serif thin letters. The H is more or less identical. The S is slightly different and the O is more round in the complainant’s logo and more oblong in the defendants. The overall impression is very similar. I think this indicates intentional passing off, or at least inequitable behavior.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to criticize Judge Ginat for following Supreme Court precedent. His analysis is solid, and he has indeed moved this case quickly through the system. However, I was critical of the original Shemesh decision. Whilst judges are bound by precedents, bloggers aren’t. My concern is that whereas under common law, the likelihood of confusion may be the issue. trademarks are registered and are generally considered a form of property. If a mark is registered for design, why shouldn’t the mark owner be considered just that, an owner of a piece of abstract property? Can the existence of other retailers selling designer goods be considered as dilution? I would argue that judge Grunis’ decision was wrong since it dilutes the Shemesh brand name and this decision has a similar effect.

What Judge Ginat is doing essentially, is ruling that the right of any third-party to use a place-name like Soho for a shopping area over-rides the rights of a trademark owner to stop this unless there is a likelihood of confusion of origin of goods. There are two torts here. Likelihood of confusion and a separate trademark infringement issue. If the only issue is likelihood of confusion, why register trademarks? It will be interesting to see if this decision is appealed, and if so, what the verdict will be.

One final comment: the late Rabbi Irving Jacobs, formerly Principle of Jews College London, once told me that Rabbi Farber, the minister of Soho used to say that on leaving the synagogue one could make the blessing בורה מיני זונות.


Finjan Files New Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Sophos

March 16, 2014

finjan logo                                      finjan coffee pot

Finjan, Inc. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Sophos, alleging infringement of Finjan patents relating to endpoint, web, and network security technologies.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Sophos’ products and services infringe upon six of Finjan’s patents. In the complaint, Finjan is seeking undisclosed damages from Sophos.


Happy Birthday

March 10, 2014

80th birthday

The Reinhold Cohn IP Group (RCIP) is celebrating the 80th birthday of the firm. Now headed up by Dr Ilan Cohn, grandson of the founder, Dr Reinhold Cohn, the group is Israel’s oldest and largest firm of patent attorneys, offering patent and trademark registration services and also litigation and enforcement to local and overseas clients. we wish them a hearty Mazel Tov!


Similar watches with different brand names

February 13, 2014

Ice  s.a. (formerly TKS) and ICE IP s.a. (formerly Chinalux SA) vend watches that are known as ice-watches. A range of these watches are shown below.

ice party ice electric

They have all sorts of distinctive features, like a winder at 3 O’clock, a strap, a watch face and hands. There is also a sort of pseudo diver’s bevel. I would argue that the only thing distinctive is the brightly coloured plastic image that was popularized by swatch 25 years ago.

The watches are labeled ICE and not SWATCH. ‘Ice watch’ sounds a little like ‘Swatch’, and Swatch were less than pleased – but that is a different story.

Time Concept 1999 LTD also market watches.

Ice sued for a temporary injunction on grounds of Passing Off, Copyright Infringement and Unjust Enrichment.

The watches are not the same. There are similarities: a winder at 3 O’clock, a strap, a watch face and hands.

Ice started marketing in Israel in 2009, with their Ice Chrono Electrick model introduced in 2012 and their Ice Chrono Party model introduced in 2013.

Time Concept was established in 1999 by Raanan Katz, and follows another company, Gallery LTD., established in 1988. Their time concept is to choose from a range of fashion watches that are made in china and to import them into Israel.

Ice claims that their Electrick and Party watches have distinctive design characteristics that, when combined, provide a unique ‘get up’ that has defined the face of the company and on which it established its reputation. Whilst they were advertising their watches on hoardings, Time Concept was important allegedly almost identical watches and marketing them as Gallery watches.

Ice sent a Cease and Desist letter, and following up by suing.

Ice alleges that Time Concept sold their copies on stands near Ice’s watches. In an interesting choice of words, the plaintiff summed up to the effect that there was an accumulation of similarities that were non functional, yet could not be dismissed as random or chance. Consequently, Dan Adin and Eran Liss, representing ICE, requested the usual package of refraining from marketing, distributing, importing, advertising and offering to sell the offending watches, and to pay half-a-million Shekels in damages.

The defendants argued that they had ordered the watches from China and are from the Unisex range, which is one of the three ranges that is branded as Gallery in Israel. The Gallery brand includes some 170 fashion watches that have sold since 1988 at around 399 Shekels, whereas the ICE watch sells at 890 Shekels. After their marketing campaigns, gallery has some 200 outlets across the country.

The plaintiffs consider that the catalogue images show the similarities, such as three dials and beveled ring, missing numbers on quarters, and the like. They argue that the defendants watches are not copies per se., but appear to be additional watches in the same series.

The defendants stressed the differences.

In his ruling, Judge Gidon Ginat ruled that the defendants watches were indeed similar to the Party and Electrick watches of the plaintiffs. Other watches of other manufacturers were less similar.

However, from a legal position, the starting point has to be that without statutory protection from patent or design laws, copying does NOT give grounds for suing. Each case has to be examined on its merits.

He noted that the plaintiff had failed to register his design.  The question remains whether one of the other charges raised: (copyright, passing off, unjust enrichment) were grounds for sanctions.

Judge Ginat was not convinced that the models were well enough known to have a reputation to be passed off, even with the extensive advertising. The defendant’s watches also carried the name Gallery. Additionally, he wasn’t sure that the watches were that similar anyway. Finally, watches are occasional purchases where one would anticipate the purchaser noting the name and logo on the watch which is very different in the two cases.

the copyright claims were rejected since the product is a mass-produced object that is protectable by design registration. Copyright may cover exclusive watches in certain circumstances, but not mass-produced watches for the mass market.

As to Unjust Enrichment, following the precedent 5768/94 A.Sh.I.R., Ginat ruled that there wasn’t the additional element of bad faith that warranted compensation.

In conclusion, the case was thrown out. Both sides to bear their own costs.

T.A. 23036-09-13 ICE S.A. vs. Ice Concept 1999 LTD> et al., Ginat 10 Feb 2014

COMMENTS

I think this decision is correct. My brother Aharon led the defence, and I discussed the case with him in advance. (I’ve also met the Time Concept people on the long, boring, Saturday night flight to Hong Kong). There may be room for unregistered design rights or short-term fashion copyright, but at present, the Israel Law does not have such provisions. The fashion industry has designer shows where everyone goes to try to work out next season’s product, and everyone is inspired by everyone else. I don’t think the case should have been brought at all, and was surprised that Eran and Dan sued in the first place. The issues raised are important though, and not just in Israel.

In a recent post, the IPKAT has announced:

Miffy

Lookalike event — but it’s not a copy. The Kats’ friends at the Competition Law Association have another event coming up: it’s called “Lookalikes – an unfair practice and unfair competition?” No, it’s not a lookalike version of the recent JIPLP/GRUR Int event on a similar subject, but it does reflect the high level of interest which is currently being shown in this important topic.  Speakers are our good friends Johanna Gibson & John Noble. The date is Thursday, 13 March 2014, 6pm at the London office of Withers Worldwide LLP. You can get the details here.


Cialis Again – District Court Rules that Only Parties to an Opposition have Standing to Appeal the Decision

February 10, 2014

assume a spherical cow

Lilly Icos produce a drug called Tedalafil, which is used to treat male impotence due to erectile dysfunction. The drug, is marketed as Cialis. When their patent application number IL 146742 covering the drug was allowed, TEVA opposed the patent issuing. After cross examination of expert witnesses but before final summaries were submitted, a commercial arrangement between Lilly Icos and Teva resulted in the opposition being dropped. However, then Deputy Commissioner, Noah Shalev Smylovezh ruled that the ‘inventive step’ on which the patent had been allowed was that fine grinding increased the solubility of the active ingredient. He ruled that this was obvious, and so, under authority of Section 34 of the Israel Patent Law, he rejected the patent anyway. This decision of his is correct. Dissolution is a surface effect and for a given mass of material, the more finely ground, the larger the surface area to volume ratio.

Expressed mathematically:

Assume spherical particles:

For a given mass M, the number of  particles n =  M / (4/3πr^3)

The surface area A of each sphere is 4πr^2

Thus the total surface area A = n 4πr^2 = 3M/r

As r shrinks, the surface area increases.

Since perfect spheres have the lowest surface area to volume ratio of any solid (which is why soap bubbles are spherical), for any other shape, the surface area increases even faster as the dimensions decrease.

The standard of obviousness for patentability in Israel is ‘obvious to try’ – see Fosamax decision by Dr Meir Noam, which was upheld by Israel Supreme Court.

Section 30 is there to prevent patents issuing that shouldn’t. This is a patent that then Deputy Commissioner, Noah Shalev Smylovezh had concluded lacked inventive step, and so  under Section 34 he refused the patent, thus ensuring the integrity of the register, allowing generic competition and allowing impotent men and their partners to benefit from cheaper erections.

An earlier posting on Noah Shalev Smylovezh’ decision may be found here.

The applicants requested further clarification, but Deputy Commissioner Noah Shalev Smylovezh’s contract as Deputy Commissioner had ended and he had returned to private practice. Ms Yaara Shoshani, an adjudicator at the Israel Patent Office took over his open files. She clarified the decision but gave the parties 30 days to respond. After reviewing their submissions, she decided not to use her powers under Section 34 of the Law, and to allow the patent to issue. Her reasoning, which overturns Dr Noam’s ruling regarding obvious to try is found here. Essentially she replaces the ‘obvious to try’ standard, with a ‘not necessarily the first thing one would try’ standard.

Unipharm appealed this decision to the Jerusalem District Court, where Judge Ben-Zion Greenberger heard the case.

Unipharm claimed that there was a chain of events that had resulted in a miscarriage of justice and requested that the Jerusalem District Court rehear the case. They claimed that the onus was on the applicant to prove that they deserved a patent and merely because the opposition was dropped, the basic requirement of a non-obvious inventive step remained missing.

Instead of addressing this issue, agent for patentee argued that Unipharm lacked standing since they were not a party to the opposition and therefore the case should be thrown out under Section 421 of the Civil Procedure Law and / or regulations 101 and 102. Unipharm countered that under the Patent Law, 174(a) anyone who sees himself hurt by a patent office decision has the right of appeal.

The Court ruled that before addressing the substantive patentability issue, it should address the issue of standing and relate to the correct interpretations of Sections 30, 34 and 174(a) of the Israel Patent Law and Section 421 of the Civil Procedure Law and / or regulations 101 and 102.  On this point, it ruled not to allow Unipharm standing, and so the patent remained valid and the decision of the Ms Yaar Shoshani Caspi, overturning Deputy Commissioner Smylovezh’ ruling was not addressed.

COMMENTS

This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The reason why the Commissioner (or his delegate) has authority under Section 34 is so that in cases where the parties do a deal and an opposition is withdrawn, but the person hearing the case believes that there are grounds for invalidating the patent, the patent office is supposed to continue in the hearing in-partes and rule on validity on the merits.

Ms Shoshani Caspi’s position disagrees with Dr Noam’s standard of obvious – obvious to try. It also overturns Noah Shalev Smylovezh’ conclusions. Unipharm should have filed an opposition, but missed the deadline. Nevertheless, Judge Ben-Zion Greenberger’ws ruling that Unipharm has no standing means that he is avoiding judicial oversight of this decision and doing so on a technicality.

The arguments put forwards by both parties had the usual dose of ‘smoke and mirrors’. The Judge quoted Barak and claimed to be doing an analysis of what the purpose of the Law was, and decided that the correct balance between patentee and opposers and rest of the public was to allow the opposers to appeal, but not third parties.

There is some logic in interpreting patent law in light of standard civil court procedures. But, clearly all generic manufacturers and importers are affected by this decision, whether or not they were a party to the opposition. indeed, the public – at least the male impotent members subsection of the public – is served by preventing monopolistic pricing on the drug in question. It therefore seems to me that the Court of Appeal should address the issues of patentability, specifically the issue of obviousness on its merit.

Maybe a user of Cialis should have filed the case, perhaps as a class action? Perhaps the way forward is for Unipharm to file cancellation proceedings and to make sure that the issue of inventive step is considered on its merits. Alternatively, they can appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

We note that in a recent decision the Supreme Court ruled that when hearing an appeal of an opposition ruling, the district court can even hear new evidence if appropriate. In that decision, which also challenged a strange Israel Patent Office decision, the Supreme Court ruled that appeals of Patent Office decisions are different from regular appeals of court decisions and an appeal may, if warranted, be a new trial with new evidence. I think that in the present case, it is likely that the Supreme Court would refer the case back to the District Court to consider on its merits. If that happens, I believe the ruling should be reversed.


Israel Newspaper to Pay Compensation for not correctly attributing photographs to photographer

February 6, 2014

Israel_Post

Israel Post is a Hebrew Language free paper distributed via supermarkets and the like. It is published by Jerusalem Post Publication Media LTD who publish the Jerusalem Post, an established Israel daily newspaper in the English language.

Ariel Yeruzolimsky was a photographer that was employed by the Jerusalem Post over 11 year period up until 2010. The work contracted established that the Jerusalem Post owned the pictures. On 32 occasions, his photographs were printed in the Israel Post. Due to the work contract, there was no case of copyright infringement. However, the pictures were accredited to a different photographer and Yeruzolimsky claimed 32 statutory awards of 10,000 Shekels in statutory moral damages, arguing that each and every photograph published was a separate infringement, a further 200,000 shekels for damages to his reputation and 150,000 Shekels for suffering caused, but the fee paid entitled him to a maximum total of 420,000 Shekels.

Judge Michael Tamir of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Magistrate’s Court accepted that each and every photograph published was a separate infringement but ruled that in the circumstances, and where the same photograph was used more than once, there was no justification to award maximum statutory damages.

The judge noted that the photographer had requested accreditation over and over again, but the Post continued to publish his photographs without proper accreditation. On the other hand, he considered the photographs fairly run of the mill images that were not of major historical significance ,lacking in particular artistic merit and which had not endangered the photographer’s life to obtain. He dismissed the defence of an unintentional mistake made without inequitable beahviour, and also the newspaper’s rights to publish the news, noting that the paper was aware that there was copyright in the photographs, and should have correctly attributed the pictures. The error was an unintentional mistake, but it was avoidable had the Jerusalem Post taken its obligations seriously. However, the judge did not consider that the photographer was actually harmed by the publication of his photos. Nor did he believe that the photos had resulted in a profit to the Post, i.e. had helped sell papers. He noted that the law gave him wide latitude in ruling damages. He awarded 77,500 Shekels in statutory damages, a further 10,000 Shekels for the suffering caused, 3000 Shekels in legal expenses and 12,500 Shekels for legal costs.

T.A. 19977-03-11 Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court: Ariel Yeruzolimsky vs. Jerusalem Post Publication Media LTD. by Michael Tamir, 20 January 2014.


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